A New Monument Celebrates Nellie Bly’s Undercover Reporting, Right Where It Happened

Nellie Bly’s work is being honored with a new statue on Roosevelt Island, the site of one of her most famous and important pieces of reporting.

Read the full story from Atlas Obscura.

Bly’s harrowing account was titled “Ten Days in a Mad-House,” and it described horrid food—inedible oatmeal and blackened, spider-studded hunks of unbuttered bread—and deplorable conditions, such as silent, stiff hours on crowded benches and uncomfortable trips to a frigid bathroom, where she and other patients were scrubbed until “my teeth chattered and my limbs were goose-fleshed and blue.” More than 130 years later, the writer has returned to the island in the form of a monument to her work and the subjects she championed.

Sculptor Amanda Matthews, co-owner of the firm Prometheus Art, designed the piece, which was installed at the north tip of the island in late 2021. It consists of a long walkway that stretches past several mirrored spheres and four seven-foot-tall faces, representing a young girl, an African-American woman, an Asian-American woman, and a queer woman. Each is cast in bronze and cleaved elegantly apart like enormous jigsaw pieces. The walkway leads to a statue of Bly herself, cast in a silver bronze. Matthews titled her installation The Girl Puzzle, a nod to the headline of Bly’s first published article, a thoughtful, passionate 1885 piece in the Pittsburgh Dispatch in which Bly advocated for solid, stimulating, paying jobs for women workers, and it is etched with her words.

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